WEEKLY IMMIGRATION UPDATE – March 29, 2021
1. Class Action Filed Against DHS for L-2 and H-4 Processing Delays – The American Immigration Lawyers Association and Wasden Banias, LLP, filed a class action lawsuit challenging processing delays on extensions of status and employment authorization documents for H-4 and L-2 nonimmigrant spouses.
2. SEVP Reports 2020 Drop in International Student Enrollment – SEVP reported a drop of 72 percent in international student enrollment in 2020, attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and Trump-era immigration policies.
3. USCIS Extends Flexibilities for Responding to Agency Requests – USCIS will consider a response to certain requests and notices received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before taking any action.
4. State Dept. Proposes Increase in Passport Security Surcharge – The Department of State proposes to raise the passport security surcharge from $60 to $80.
5. USCIS Issues Guidance on P-1A Internationally Recognized Athletes – The update in the USCIS Policy Manual provides more detailed guidance on the required prospective level of performance and provides USCIS’s interpretation of, and examples related to, the undefined regulatory phrase, “major United States sports league or team” as it relates to internationally recognized P-1A athletes.
6. EOIR Releases New Interactive Policy Manual – The manual includes the Immigration Court and Board of Immigration Appeals Practice Manuals, the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer Practice Manual, and all current agency policy memoranda.
1. Class Action Filed Against DHS for L-2 and H-4 Processing Delays
On March 22, 2021, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and Wasden Banias, LLP, filed a class action lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), challenging processing delays on extensions of status and employment authorization documents (EADs) for H-4 and L-2 nonimmigrant spouses.
AILA President Jennifer Minear said, “DHS can and must revoke the unnecessary biometrics requirements for H-4 and L-2 nonimmigrants, provide automatic work authorization while DHS processes EAD renewal requests, and allow EAD applicants to file their renewal applications sooner than 180 days prior to EAD expiration to prevent gaps in work authorization.’
AILA press release, https://www.aila.org/advo-media/press-releases/2021/lawsuit-l2-h4-processing-delays
2. SEVP Reports 2020 Drop in International Student Enrollment
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) reported a drop of 72 percent in international student enrollment in 2020, attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and Trump-era immigration policies. The annual report, which presents data from the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, also noted that international students chose business administration as a major most often in 2020, followed by second-language learning and computer science.
Also, according to the report:
- International student enrollment dropped by 17.8% from 2019 to 2020, which the agency said was pandemic-related.
- Chinese student enrollment declined in 2020 compared with 2019 (down by 91,936). Indian student enrollment also decreased (down by 41,761 in 2020 versus 2019).
- SEVIS by the Numbers, Mar. 22, 2021, https://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/sevisBTN2020.pdf
- SEVIS report announcement, https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/2021/03/read-the-2020-sevis-by-the-numbers-report
3. USCIS Extends Flexibilities for Responding to Agency Requests
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has extended flexibilities in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. USCIS will consider a response to certain requests and notices (such as Requests for Additional Evidence and Notices of Intent to Deny) received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before taking any action. Additionally, the agency will consider a Form N-336 or Form I-290B received up to 60 calendar days from the date of the decision before taking any action. This flexibility applies to the documents if the issuance date listed on the request, notice, or decision is between March 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, inclusive.
Affected documents include requests for evidence; continuations to request evidence (N-14); notices of intent to deny, revoke, rescind, or terminate regional centers; and motions to reopen an N-400 pursuant to 8 CFR 335.5.
- USCIS notice, https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/uscis-extends-flexibility-for-responding-to-agency-requests-4
4. State Dept. Proposes Increase in Passport Security Surcharge
The Department of State issued a proposed rule on March 26, 2021, to raise the passport security surcharge from $60 to $80.
Comments are due by May 25, 2021
- Schedule of Fees for Consular Services—Passport Security Surcharge, Proposed Rule, Dept. of State, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2021-03-26/pdf/2021-06263.pdf
5. USCIS Issues Guidance on P-1A Internationally Recognized Athletes
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued updated policy guidance on internationally recognized athletes (P-1A nonimmigrants). The update in the USCIS Policy Manual provides more detailed guidance on the required prospective level of performance and provides USCIS’s interpretation of, and examples related to, the undefined regulatory phrase, “major United States sports league or team” as it relates to internationally recognized P-1A athletes.
The guidance clarifies that “major United States sports league” is interpreted as “one that has a distinguished reputation commensurate with an internationally recognized level of performance, and “major United States sports team” means “a team that participates in such a league.”
- USCIS Policy Alert, PA-2021-04, Mar. 26, 2021, https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/document/policy-manual-updates/20210326-Athletes.pdf
- USCIS Policy Manual, https://www.uscis.gov/policy-manual
6. EOIR Releases New Interactive Policy Manual
The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) announced the release of its first interactive policy manual. EOIR said the manual is the “culmination of a multi-year project that represents the agency’s first comprehensive review of its policies. This effort involved cross-component collaboration and the dedication of many employees to identify redundancies, clarify ambiguities, eliminate surplusage, and update policies to reflect current law and practice.”
EOIR said the manual includes the Immigration Court and Board of Immigration Appeals Practice Manuals, the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer Practice Manual, and all current agency policy memoranda.
- EOIR press release, https://www.justice.gov/eoir/pr/eoir-announces-release-comprehensive-policy-manual
- EOIR Policy Manual, https://www.justice.gov/eoir/eoir-policy-manual
Webinar on USCIS online filing and customer service tools. The Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman invites stakeholders to participate in a webinar to discuss the agency’s online filing and customer service tools on March 31, 2021, from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. ET. https://www.dhs.gov/event/cisomb-webinar-series-uscis-online-filing-customer-service-tools
New E-Verify feature. A new E-Verify feature, myUploads, allows employees to upload required documents in JPEG, PNG, or PDF formats to help resolve Tentative Nonconfirmations (TNCs). Employees can access their myE-Verify accounts by logging into their USCIS online accounts and uploading the requested documents. They can still use fax or mail to submit documents if they prefer. The employer should provide the Further Action Notice (FAN) to the affected employee, discuss the TNC privately with the employee, and allow the employee to decide whether he or she will contest the TNC. The FAN includes the steps for using myUploads to help resolve a DHS TNC. Once uploaded, the employee must call the number on the FAN to resolve the case. https://myeverify.uscis.gov/
New SAVE features. Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) is enhancing its case search capabilities, including improved usability through a search bar and other features, and a more robust case search engine. SAVE will notify users by email at least three weeks before the go-live date for enhancements. https://save.uscis.gov/web/media/resourcesContents/SAVESearchCasesTipSheet.pdf
Immigrant and employee rights webinars. The Department of Justice’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), of the Civil Rights Division, is offering a number of free webinars for workers, employers, and advocates. For more information, see https://www.justice.gov/crt/webinars.
E-Verify webinar schedule. E-Verify has released its calendar of webinars at https://www.e-verify.gov/calendar-field_date_and_time/month.
AGENCY PROCESSING TIMES
USCIS case processing times: https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/
US Department of Labor: https://flag.dol.gov/processingtimes
Department of State Visa Bulletin: https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/law-and-policy/bulletin.html
COVID-19 resources. The response of the U.S. immigration agencies to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is constantly evolving, making it difficult to report relevant information that is not rendered immediately obsolete. The list of online resources below is intended to serve as a quick reference to the most current available agency information.
Coronavirus.gov: Primary federal site for general coronavirus information
USA.gov/coronavirus: Catalog of U.S. government’s response to coronavirus
CDC.gov/coronavirus: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information
American Immigration Lawyers Association: (links to practice alerts on this site are restricted to members)
Immigration Agency Information
Department of Homeland Security: DHS.gov/coronavirus
– Overview and FAQs: https://www.ice.gov/coronavirus
– Requirements for ICE Detention Facilities: https://www.ice.gov/doclib/coronavirus/eroCOVID19response
– Updates and Announcements: https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/coronavirus
– Accessing I-94 Information: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home
Department of Labor:
– OFLC Announcements (COVID-19 announcements included here): https://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/
– COVID-19 FAQs:
Round 1 (Mar. 20, 2020): https://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/pdf/DOL-OFLC_COVID-19_FAQs_Round%201_03.20.2020.pdf
Round 2 (Apr. 1, 2020): https://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/pdf/DOL-OFLC_COVID-19_FAQs_Round%202_04.01.2020.pdf
Round 3 (Apr. 9, 2020): https://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/pdf/DOL-OFLC_COVID-19_FAQs_Round%203.pdf
State Department: https://www.state.gov/coronavirus/
Travel advisories: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/ea/covid-19-information.html
Country-specific information: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/COVID-19-Country-Specific-Information.html
J-1 exchange visitor information: https://j1visa.state.gov/covid-19/
Executive Office for Immigration Review: https://www.justice.gov/eoir/eoir-operational-status-during-coronavirus-pandemic
AGENCY TWITTER ACCOUNTS
Study in the States: @StudyinStates
I-9 AND E-VERIFY WEBINARS
USCIS and Immigrant and employee rights webinars. The Department of Justice’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section, Civil Rights Division,has joined with USCIS to present webinars on employee rights during the E-Verify and Form I-9 employment eligibility verification processes. For more information or to register, see: https://www.justice.gov/crt/webinars.
E-Verify webinar schedule: https://www.e-verify.gov/calendar-field_date_and_time/month/202004.
This newsletter was prepared in collaboration with ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, comprised of twenty U.S. immigration lawyers who head some of the top immigration practices in the country. Larrabee Albi Coker LLP is an active member of ABIL.
Legal Disclaimer: This newsletter is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute for legal advice based on the circumstances of a specific matter.